The U.S. NTSB is keeping in-flight loss of control (LOC-I) in general aviation on its “Most Wanted” list of transportation safety improvements for the third year in a row. The Safety Board, which yesterday released its list for the 2017 to 2018 time frame, re-emphasized a number of themes from previous lists, including fatigue, distractions, medical fitness and substance impairments.
In retaining LOC-I on the list, the NTSB noted that data between 2008 and 2014 confirms that LOC-I “continues to be the biggest killer in general aviation,” accounting for nearly half of fatal fixed-wing general aviation accidents. The accidents resulted in 1,194 fatalities, the Safety Board added.
The NTSB pointed to multiple reasons for LOC-I, such as pilot distraction, loss of situational awareness or weather, but said the most common type involves a stall. “Stalls may happen because a pilot lacks understanding about how a stall actually relates to exceeding a wing’s critical angle of attack as opposed to the more common idea that it’s just related to airspeed,” the NTSB said. “When airplanes are close to the ground, such as in a landing pattern, there is limited time and altitude available to recover from a stall or spin, making these stalls particularly deadly.”
The Board cited as an example the Nov. 10, 2015 crash of a Hawker 700A while on a non-precision approach to Akron Fulton International Airportand pointed to the crew’s mishandling of the approach in the probable cause.
“Although LOC happens in all phases of flight, approach to landing, maneuvering and initial climb are, statistically, the deadliest phases of flight for LOC accidents,” the Safety Board said. “To prevent unintended departures from flight and better manage stalls, pilots need more training and a better awareness of the technologies that can help prevent these tragedies.”
“General aviation has seen enormous gains in terms of safety in recent years,” said AOPA senior v-p of the Air Safety Institute George Perry, noting that the fatal accident rate has dropped from 1.73 per 100,000 flight hours in 1994 to 0.89 in 2015.
But, Perry added, “Even more progress can be made by allowing pilots to install modern and proven safety enhancing equipment in aircraft.” Regulations governing the process for equipping aircraft with new technology can stifle modernization, he said. He added that the association also is continuing to find innovations to improve pilot training. “With access to the latest technologies in the cockpit and future training improvements, we hope pilots will benefit and continue to make gains in aviation safety,” Perry concluded.